The next Big Deal in TV technology is microLED: the idea behind this technology is that it works using self-lighting pixels, just like OLED, but instead of being made from somewhat fragile organic components, it uses microscopic versions of traditional LEDs. This should give all the advantages of OLED, including astounding contrast and per-pixel dimming, but at higher brightness levels and a longer lifetime for the panels.
Last year, Samsung introduced the first microLED TV set that people could buy for the home, but at 110 inches in size and at a cost of around $150,000, it wasn't exactly mainstream. It was supposed to launch in smaller sizes too, but those never materialised – so that was the cheapest you could pay for this new tech.
The good news this year is that Samsung is planning to launch smaller and cheaper microLED sets later this year, with production starting in May according to The Elec. The bad news is that when I say smaller, I mean 89 inches and 101 inches, with a 114-inch set coming later. And by cheaper I mean $80,000 to $100,000.
But still! A 40% drop year on year is nothing to be sniffed at – it shows that things are moving quickly with Samsung's ability to produce the technology more efficiently. In fact, if Samsung is able to keep making 40% drops each year by improving economies of scale and production lines, then in five years the price will be down to around $7000 – in line with today's best 8K TVs.
Obviously, that's a big "if" – but you never know with tech. Sometimes things go slower than expected (transparent OLED TVs have been shown off at basically every CES for years, but don't seem to be any closer to actually being sold), and sometimes they go much faster. How many people had even heard of Mini-LED or QD-OLED five years ago, and this year both of these technologies will drive some of the best Samsung TVs.
It may be that we see microLED appear on a smaller scale first, where the cost of huge panels won't be so prohibitive. It's said that Apple is planning on using the tech to replace OLED in the Apple Watch whenever it's able, though I wouldn't be surprised if that's years away too – certainly not in the Apple Watch Series 8.
But still, this price drop on Samsung's microLED TVs leaves me really optimistic about the technology's future, even if it means it remains only for the super-rich today. The real danger was that there wouldn't be any progress from the first version quickly – this kind of price drop makes it seem like Samsung is being as aggressive as it can be with the tech, and we'll all only benefit from more options to shake up the TV industry.
If you're looking for a 2022 TV that's premium while being slightly more affordable, you might want to take a look at the LG C2 price and release date being revealed by a retailer.